Thursday, 31 March 2011

Loy Krathong, Thailand

"November full moon shines,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
And the water's high in
the river and local klong,
Loy Loy Krathong,
Loy Loy Krathong,
Loy Krathong is here
and everybody's full of cheer,
We're together at the klong,
Each one with his krathong,

As we push away we pray, We can see a better day. "
This is a translation of the song sung by Thai people to celebrate Loy Krathong.

Loy Krathong is basically a Thai festival that happens all over the country. In Thai, Loy means "to float" and krathong is the name of the little lotus-shaped boats, which are constructed for the occasion. Loy Krathong is held on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the lunar calendar. This usually falls in November and I was there when happened in the past year, 2010.

Loy Krathong is long anticipated all over Thailand and especially in Bangkok, thousands of people gather on the banks of the rivers and take boat trips along the canals.

Last year, I was in Ko Samui then I went to a huge lake after dark, just around the place I was staying. The sun had only just set, several hundreds of people had already gathered.

I walked around the area, groups of people had gathered to celebrate together. All the tables and chairs had been set up everywhere, the tables already covered with bottles of Sangsom whiskey, glasses and buckets of ice. All around, stalls were set up selling krathongs in every size and colour, fireworks and toys.

At around 8 pm the whole thing began. I found a place on the river bank and watched in awe as about thousands of krathongs went down the river.

There was a fireworks display during long minutes. Several children were firing tubes with small rockets into the air, shouting and jumping with entusiasm.

Then it was time for me to launch my krathong. I patiently waited my turn at the water's edge, then lit the candle and incense sticks in the center and lightly placed my krathong on the water, making a wish as I did so. Many people believe that their wish will come true if their candle continues burning until the krathong is out of sight. After a couple of months, I can say that my wishes are coming true.

I watched while my krathong drifted into the river and got lost amongst the hundreds of others already floating there. The flickering lights of the candles on the water created a magical atmosphere.

The Loy Krathong festival dates back about 700 years. Coinciding with the end of the rainy season and the rice harvest, it is a way of apologizing for polluting the water. Thai people float a krathong on the water to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha. The act of floating away the candle raft symbolises letting go of anger and grudges so that a person can start life afresh.

Another symbol of Loy Krathong are the beautiful lanterns. As I walked around the place, I came across a group of monks holding aloft one of these large paper lanterns and waiting for it to fill with air. When inflated, a candle was placed inside and the lantern was released, rising high into the air to become another flickering point of light.

That experience stayed on my mind and will stuck forever with me, these kind of tradition makes me respect and appreciate all the people from the other side of the world, the oriental culture and their values, even when tragedy strikes hard, they keep on going, praying, helping, singing, with great patience and will. Doesn't matter if it's a tsunami in Thailand, or a volcano exploding in Indonesia, earthquake happening in Japan, flooding in China or the bloodiest war of all times in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, nothing can stop them smiling.

We should pay attention and try a little bit harder, as well.

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